Name: Dan Trauner
Title: Director of Security
Location: New York (HQ)
GETTING TO AXONIUS
Where did you work before Axonius?
I was at Bugcrowd – they are known for crowdsourcing everything security related. I started as one of the first members of their Security Operations team before migrating into an engineering position. Eventually, I shifted into a role that really focused on Bugcrowd’s own security program.
When did you join Axonius?
How did you hear about Axonius?
Back in 2012, I participated in an Israeli-American internship program called Birthright Excel, where I spent a summer working at a cybersecurity company based in Tel Aviv. A few years later, I met Dean Sysman at an alumni event for this program, and we bonded over being two of the only technical cybersecurity-focused alumni at the time. When I found out Dean would be at RSA 2019 with his new venture, Axonius, we caught up, and he shared some of the Axonius story with me. I watched a quick demo, and the rest is history!
Why did you join Axonius?
After reconnecting with Dean and seeing the power of Axonius first-hand, I was extremely intrigued given my previous attempts to address asset management at Bugcrowd and elsewhere. On a personal level, I was also planning to move back to NYC where I grew up, after having spent five years in San Francisco. Professionally, I was also considering shifting into a more customer-facing role as an opportunity to hone my sales skills to better complement my entrepreneurial spirit. Dean mentioned that there was an opening for a Sales Engineering role at Axonius, which seemed like a perfect way to hit two birds with one stone.
What’s your favorite part about working at Axonius?
I know this is a cliché, but it’s the people. Everyone is transparent, honest, and super focused. And I feel great about working somewhere where everyone seems to understand the importance of not only their own team’s goals, but also those we share as a company.
What has been your highlight working at Axonius?
It’s that I can always find new opportunities to make an immediate impact, and there’s a sense of trust when it comes to people contributing cross-functionally using whatever they’re an expert in.
Part of the reason I’m now helping build our own security program is that I was repeatedly asked on sales calls about our own security team as an SE. Even though we were only around 40 employees at the time, I knew that we would increasingly need formal structure given how rapidly we were growing and customers’ need to understand our security posture before using our product to improve their own. Now that we have over twice the number of employees and many more customers, it has made a big difference.
What does a typical day at Axonius look like for you?
As with any very rapidly growing start-up, there are a lot of day-to-day technical operations tasks – security and otherwise. My team tries to spend as much time as possible automating vs. operating, which is far more challenging and interesting!
What do you eat for lunch?
Well, while I’m home and practicing social distancing, I normally eat whatever leftovers I have on hand. When I’m working at headquarters, I like to go to one of the Japanese grocery stores or Mediterranean restaurants near Grand Central Station.
JUST FOR FUN
What’s your best stress buster?
That’s an easy one: Cooking! It’s especially fun when I’m trying new recipes or have to hunt for ingredients I’ve never used before.
What do you like to do fun outside of work?
I’m interested in the art world, and enjoy going to museums and galleries. I also collect art and occasionally produce my own pieces – often photography, but recently I’ve been experimenting with LED lights. I finally got around to putting a few of my own photos online here: https://trauner.gallery
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to speak five languages, but I have a feeling that even if I really work at it, I’ll only ever have a chance to really improve one language besides English. So until real-time translation technology is widespread, I’ll probably focus on improving my Hebrew.
Any special talents or skills?
I guess you could call it “tinkering.” I’m pretty good at taking things apart and working with tools – it started with woodworking while growing up, but I eventually got into electronics.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
After I learn a lot more about tax law and managing money, I would love to have my own art gallery. I’d also be interested in starting a nonprofit to make it easier for people to navigate entering and developing careers within the cybersecurity industry. There are some OK certifications out there, but it should be easier to get started via self-learning given how many free tools and learning materials exist, and there should be more of a focus on real-world applications and experience vs. certifications. Some of the most talented people I know in the industry never studied cybersecurity formally.
What is something you learned in the last week?
Right before the Whitney Museum closed due to the pandemic, I saw an exhibit about how a number of mid-century American painters were inspired by Mexican muralists. I was especially surprised to see a few of the Jackson Pollock pieces in the exhibition, which looked unlike anything else I had seen by him…
Do you have any pets?
Not yet, although I’d like to get a dog!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to transition into the cybersecurity industry?
Don’t be afraid to seek resources on YouTube, podcasts, or blogs by individual security researchers, or to follow these people on Twitter. You’re going to learn a lot more this way (and gain more valuable insight) vs. trying to digest current events in cybersecurity from the perspective of mainstream media outlets and non-industry secondary sources.
Also, many of the large cybersecurity conferences such as DEF CON or the larger BSides events record all of their talks and post them online – I highly recommend watching some of those recordings related to the topics that interest you most.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to transition into sales engineering from a technical position?
I think that can be summed up in three things. Not to over simplify, but if you already have a reasonably technical background and can tackle these things, you’ll be in good shape:
- Learn how to pitch. If you’ve never done sales, this will consist of practice and repetition. There’s no other way.
- Learn when to listen. The best sales conversations feel exactly like that – a casual, honest conversation. Both parties should be genuinely interested in what the other can offer.
- Know your audience, and how to communicate concisely with them. Different audiences are interested in different details.
I like the CISO/Security Vendor Relationship podcast by David Spark as a resource for helping learn some of these things as they pertain to cybersecurity. They have a segment where they break down an anonymized cold email from a cybersecurity company, and will talk about what was (or wasn’t good) about the approach.